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Texas Drug Laws: What Happens If You Get Charged With Possession in Texas?

Drug laws vary from state to state, but in Texas, drug possession is a serious offense that could potentially land you in jail.

If you are caught with controlled substances or driving under the influence in Texas, you could go to jail for a long time. That said, depending on the charges and your criminal history, your defense attorney may be able to help reduce your sentence by recommending that you go to rehab instead of jail.

Below, we provide more details about Texas drug laws and the possible charges and penalties you could face if you’re caught with controlled substances in Texas. We also provide information about alternative sentencing with court-ordered rehab.

Charges for Possession of a Controlled Substance in Texas

If you or a loved one has been caught in a compromising situation with controlled substances, you’re probably wondering, “What happens if you get charged with possession in Texas?

Typically, if the police catch you in possession of controlled substances in Texas, you could face one or several of the following penalties:

  • Large fines
  • Jail time
  • Mandatory addiction treatment
  • Probation
  • Temporary driver’s license suspension

The severity of your sentencing will vary depending on:

  • The type of drug(s) you are caught with
  • How much of the drug(s) you have
  • Whether the evidence determines “intent to deliver” (such as how you store the drug, if you possess any drug paraphernalia, if you have large amounts of cash on you, or if you have any past convictions or prior offenses)
  • Whether a minor was present on the premises where the offense was committed

What Are the Penalties for Drug Possession in Texas?

The severity of the drug possession charges depends on the circumstances, as described above. But if you’re like most people, you’re probably wondering, “Is possession of a controlled substance a felony in Texas?” To answer that question for you, here’s a breakdown of penalties for drug possession in Texas, as well as the classification (felony vs. misdemeanor).

According to Texas drug laws, drug offenses and penalties are categorized into four penalty groups based on drug classification.1 Each drug category has its own set of penalties and marijuana is categorized on its own. Some drugs (like hydrocodone) also fall into two different categories.

Here’s a brief overview of each penalty group.

Penalty Group 1: 

This penalty group includes substances that are deemed to be extremely dangerous and addictive, such as heroin and cocaine. Penalties for this group start at 6 months to 2 years in a state jail and a possible fine of up to $10,000. If you are caught with more than 400 grams of one of these substances, you could spend anywhere from 10 to 99 years in prison and face a fine of up to $300,000 if the offense occurred when a minor was present.

PossessionPenaltyIncarcerationMaximum Fine
Less than 1 gramState jail felony6 months to 2 years$10,000
1 to 4 grams3rd degree felony2 to 10 years$10,000
4 to 200 grams2nd degree felony2 to 20 years$10,000
200 to 400 grams1st degree felony5 to 99 years $10,000
More than 400 gramsEnhanced felony 110 to 99 years$300,000

Penalty Group 2: 

This penalty group includes common hallucinogenic drugs like ecstasy, PCP, and amphetamines. Penalties for this group start at 6 months to 2 years in a state jail and a possible fine of up to $10,000. If you are caught with more than 400 grams of one of these substances, you could be sentenced to 5 to 99 years in prison and face a fine of up to $50,000.

PossessionPenaltyIncarcerationMaximum Fine
Less than 1 gramState jail felony6 months to 2 years$10,000
1 to 4 grams3rd degree felony2 to 10 years$10,000
4 to 400 grams2nd degree felony2 to 20 years$10,000
More than 400 grams1st degree felony5 to 99 years$50,000

Penalty Group 3: 

This penalty group includes depressants and stimulants like benzodiazepines, diazepam (Valium), and methylphenidate (Ritalin). Penalties for this group start at up to 1 year in county jail and a fine of up to $4,000. If you are caught with more than 400 grams of one of these substances, you could be sentenced to 5 to 99 years in prison with a fine of up to $50,000.

PossessionPenaltyIncarcerationMaximum Fine
Less than 28 gramsClass A misdemeanorUp to 1 year $4,000
28 to 200 grams3rd degree felony2 to 10 years $10,000
200 to 400 grams2nd degree felony2 to 20 years$10,000
More than 400 grams1st degree felony5 to 99 years$50,000

Penalty Group 4: 

This penalty group includes a broad range of prescription medications and chemical compounds that are classified as controlled substances due to their potential for abuse and addiction. Penalties for this group start at up to 6 months in county jail and up to $2,000 in fines. If you are caught with more than 400 grams of one of these substances, you could be sentenced to 5 to 99 years in prison with fines up to $50,000.

PossessionPenaltyIncarcerationMaximum Fine
Less than 28 gramsClass B misdemeanorUp to 6 months$2,000
28 to 200 grams3rd degree felony2 to 10 years$10,000
200 to 400 grams2nd degree felony2 to 20 years $10,000
More than 400 grams1st degree felony5 to 99 years$50,000
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What Are the Penalties for Marijuana Possession in Texas?

In Texas, marijuana is it’s own distinct category when it comes to drug possession charges and penalties. Unlike in many other states where marijuana legalization and decriminalization are on the rise, you can still face criminal drug possession charges in Texas because cannabis is illegal under state law.2 

Generally speaking, if you are caught with a small amount of marijuana in Texas, you could be charged with a misdemeanor. However, according to Texas drug law, possession of more than 2,000 pounds of marijuana could result in felony charges, up to 99 years in prison, and a $50,000 fine.3

Marijuana PossessionPenaltyIncarcerationMaximum Fine
2 ounces or lessMisdemeanor180 days$2,000
2 to 4 ouncesMisdemeanor1 year$4,000
4 ounces to 5 poundsFelony180 days to 2 years$10,000
5 to 50 poundsFelony2 to 10 years$10,000
50 to 2,000 poundsFelony2 to 20 years$10,000
More than 2,000 poundsFelony5 to 99 years$50,000

Can a Possession of a Controlled Substance Charge Be Dropped?

In some instances, drug possession charges may be dropped and there will be no conviction recorded against your record. However, this typically occurs when a jurisdiction offers diversion programs for individuals who have been caught with small amounts of controlled substances.

These programs usually require that the person completes some form of court-ordered rehab, pays all fines and court costs, and completes all other required obligations before the charges are dropped.

Depending on the circumstances and the jurisdiction, you may be eligible for court-ordered rehab. If you’re unsure, ask your attorney about it. When you’re facing jail time, it’s always worth exploring all potential options with your legal defense.

Court-Ordered Rehab: How to Go to Rehab Instead of Prison

Most likely, if you’ve been caught in possession of a controlled substance in Texas, you probably don’t want to go to jail. Fortunately, you may have another option.

Court-ordered rehab is a form of alternative sentencing for people who have been convicted of drug possession or other drug-related crimes in Texas.

If the following circumstances apply to your situation, the judge may decide that you would benefit more from a trip to rehab than a trip to jail.

  • Prison does not match the nature of your crime
  • You do not have a criminal record
  • Your offense was nonviolent
  • Your offense was a direct or indirect result of drug addiction

In these instances, you may be required to attend a mandatory court-ordered rehab program instead of going to jail. 

The specifics of your court-ordered rehab sentencing may vary, depending on your drug abuse history and the nature of your crime, but you may be required to attend group counseling, residential rehab, outpatient rehab, or some other type of treatment program.

Although you may not want to go to rehab either, you will need to weigh your options and decide what will benefit you most in the long run. 

  • If you’re struggling with drug addiction, going to rehab may provide behavioral and mental health treatment to help you overcome your physical and psychological dependence, make positive life changes, and sustain lasting sobriety and a crime-free life.
  • On the other hand, going to prison may keep you out of trouble for a short time, but once you’ve served your sentence and you’re back out in the world, you may fall right back into old habits and find yourself in prison again.

When it’s all said and done, court-ordered rehab can provide valuable opportunities for you to commit to genuine, lasting life changes, learn how to live sober, establish a strong support system, and stay out of prison. 

If you’re interested in pursuing the option of court-ordered rehab instead of jail, talk to your attorney to determine whether this is an option for you. If you discover that it is, a representative at Nova Recovery Center can work with your lawyer and the judge to facilitate the process and provide a court-ordered rehab program that’s right for you.

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Texas Drug Possession FAQ: All Your Drug Possession Questions Answered

What is considered drug possession? 

Drug possession is knowingly and intentionally possessing enough of a controlled substance for personal use or to sell, and without a valid prescription (if that applies).

Drug possession charges fall into two categories: Simple possession (for personal use) and possession with intent to distribute. The latter is typically punished with harsher penalties, to deter dealers and distributors.

Drug possession laws vary from state to state but the basic elements of the offense remain the same. Prosecutors must be able to prove that a person knew the drug in question was a controlled substance and that the person knowingly had possession or control over the drug. The term “constructive possession” also may apply in situations where a person had access to an illegal drug, even if it was not on his or her person at the time of the arrest.

Is it hard to get a job with a possession charge?

Generally speaking, yes. It’s more difficult to get a job with any kind of arrest or criminal charges. That said, getting a job with a possession charge on your record is certainly not impossible. Being honest and upfront with any potential employer can help establish trust well before the background check is completed and increase your chances of getting hired.

Also, not all employers will respond to a drug possession charge in the same way. Depending on the employer, the company, and the type of job you’re applying for, the prospect of getting a job with a possession charge on your record could be easy or difficult depending on the situation.

The number of charges you have on your record, how old they are, and the type of possession charges you have on your record can also make a difference in how you are perceived as a potential employee.

Will a possession charge show up on a background check?

Possibly, but not in all instances. Generally, the information that shows up on a criminal background check includes:

  • Felony and misdemeanor convictions
  • Pending criminal cases
  • History of adult incarceration
  • Arrests pending prosecution
  • Arrests that did not lead to convictions (sometimes)

In some states, the disclosure of past misdemeanors, felonies, and other convictions is forbidden after a certain amount of time.

Does simple possession go on your record?

Yes. One major consequence of pleading guilty to a simple possession charge is that it will go on your criminal record.

What happens when you go to court for drug possession?

When you go to court for drug possession, several different things could happen:

  • The charges are dropped – The prosecutor may decide there is not enough evidence to move forward with your case and you can petition to have the drug arrest expunged from your record at a later date.
  • The charges are dismissed – If there is a flaw in the state’s case, the court may throw it out and dismiss the charges.
  • You are sentenced to a diversion program – If you are a non-violent first-time offender, pre-trial intervention may be an option for you. You will technically be convicted of the crime, but as long as you complete all requirements demanded by the court, the conviction will be dismissed and removed from your record.
  • You go to drug court – Similar to a diversion program, if you qualify for drug court, you can plead guilty to the drug charges and complete a rehabilitation program instead of going to jail. If you complete the program and all its requirements, the charges are dismissed and may be expunged from your record.
  • You agree to a plea bargain – You can plead guilty to a lesser offense or a different one in exchange for receiving a more lenient sentence or dropping more serious charges.
  • You are convicted of the possession charges – You plead guilty to the charges. If the judge finds you guilty, you’ll have a drug conviction on your record and will face criminal penalties. 

What happens if drugs are found in your house or car?

If police find drugs in your house or car, you may be arrested and charged with possession unless you can prove that the drugs aren’t yours. Even if the drugs aren’t yours, if there is evidence that you had access to the drugs and knew about them, then you could be charged with constructive possession.

For example, if your roommate leaves drugs in your living room, you know about them, and you move them back to your roommate’s room, you could potentially still be charged with constructive possession because you had the knowledge that they were there and had control over them.

Can you get in trouble for texting about drugs?

No law says you can’t text about drug use. On the other hand, if you are texting someone about buying or selling an illegal drug, it may be used as evidence to prosecute you for a drug-related crime.

That said, the only time a police officer has a right to search your phone is if they have a warrant. Otherwise, you are not legally obligated to hand over your phone. If the police have probable cause to search your phone, they will need to get a warrant from a judge first.

What is the difference between state and federal drug charges?

One of the main differences between state and federal drug charges is that federal drug charges usually carry harsher penalties, longer prison sentences, and they are often charged as felonies. Comparatively, state drug charges for possession without the intent to distribute typically carry a lighter sentence and can be charged as felonies or misdemeanors.

References:

  1. https://statutes.capitol.texas.gov/Docs/HS/htm/HS.481.htm 
  2. https://www.texasnorml.org/activism/marijuana-laws-and-penalties-in-texas/
  3. https://guides.sll.texas.gov/cannabis/cbd
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